Spend any amount of time along coastal Alaskan trails at low tide, and you’ll see a landscape covered with a dark gray mud. These are the Alaskan mudflats—the remnants of mountains that were brought down to the earth by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. The rivers that feed into the Inlet bring massive amounts of sediment—tens of millions of tons per year.
There is no doubt that these mudflats are gorgeous, but they’re also quite unsafe. Here’s some information you should know before your visit to the dangerous mudflats in Alaska.
Safety Around the Mudflats
It’s very tempting when you see the miles and miles of mudflats that appear at low tide to spend some time walking along them, enjoying the isolation and solitude of the Alaskan shore. This is an especially common temptation near Anchorage’s Kincaid Beach, a large sandy beach where people often have bonfires and picnics. The beach is located right next to miles’ worth of smooth mudflats.
However, you should avoid this temptation at all costs. These mudflats are highly dangerous, and have claimed many lives. Mudflats essentially act as quicksand—there are many stories of people being caught in the mud, unable to save themselves when the ice-cold tides come rushing back into the area.
Yes, there are some people who cross the mudflats safely. People like to hunt on the mud or walk along the mud to Fire Island in the Cook Inlet. There are some people who will cross at low tide and still come back safely. Any excursion involving the mud flats, however, should be extremely well planned with the tide schedule, and should not deviate at all from that plan.
How to Handle Dangerous Mudflats
The biggest problem with the mudflats is that most people are thoroughly unprepared for how to handle themselves if they get stuck. As with quicksand, the natural reaction is to scramble to try to free yourself. Also as with quicksand, the more you move around, the deeper you’re going to sink in.
The issue only becomes worse when you consider the fog that frequently engulfs the area, as well as the potential for icy tide waters to come rushing back in.
Local rescuers are prepared near the mudflats with a water pump, but every second counts when someone is stuck in the mudflats, so these rescues can turn into a race against the clock.
When the tide does come in, the waves can be up to 10 feet tall, depending on the winds and the moon cycle. People love to sit from a safe distance and watch the tide come in, but it’s not a particularly welcome sight if you’re still out on the mudflats. If you are stuck when the tides arrive, you have an extremely small chance of survival.
If you want to see the mudflats, it’s important you speak with an experienced guide about doing so rather than attempting to venture off yourself. For more information about the dangerous mudflats in Alaska, we encourage you to contact us today.